“I don’t need to remind you how crucially secret this operation is,” the general reminded, as he stepped into the ready room. He was right about that. This was the third time the same crew had gathered together in the same airless little cubicle. Twice before, they were dismissed without getting their mission approved to proceed. They didn’t need to be reminded how important it was to maintain absolute covert cover.
How top secret can you get?
There are various grades of government security classifications with labels like “classified,” “secret,” or in some rare cases, “burn before reading.” This was one of those rare ones. Everything about the mission was extraordinary and if word of their controversial work was to leak, there would be global hell to pay politically. This crew was made up of well trained professionals and they kept their end of the bargain. Three sets of eyes swiveled to focus on the general. “We have a go for launch.” That was the words they all had been waiting for.
“They just restarted after the automatic hold at T-10 minutes.” Glancing at the chronometer on his wrist, the general added, “you have 8 minutes to liftoff.” In a ballet of trained precision the three member crew picked up their suit helmets and boarded the gantry elevator. The “unmanned” NASA “Diana I” wasn’t as unmanned as advertised. That’s why their mission was so “hush-hush.” It wasn’t “unwomanned” either. In fact, there were two of them.
Ethan Harshaw, Tanya Lewis and Emily Robinson hustled to perform their well rehearsed strap down procedures. They functioned almost automatically after practicing the moves over and over again, until they could be done in their sleep. After the flurry of activity came the explosive crush of liftoff. Then came the wait. Once the bangs and thumps and blasts subsided, the only thing that mattered was they were still alive and endlessly falling toward the moon.
There was little planning for crew comfort in an “unmanned” capsule. This project was so secret, that if anyone were to find out, the thruple would be considered “stowaways.” In reality, they were to be the first colony of humans on the moon. Or so they thought.
The three had been well trained for their secret mission on the absolute boredom which the physical demands of their seemingly endless flight into nothingness would entail. The prize of starting an undercover human habitat on the lunar surface made it all worth while.
They talked and chatted away the journey, and fought and argued and slept. There was little else to do until they reached lunar orbit and the lander equipment could be used. Equipment which was most definitely not listed on the official weight manifests but had been carefully calculated in anyway.
The lunar colony
Right on carefully calculated schedule, the panels which they were strapped in front of lit up and came alive. That was the signal for landing. Once again, they were at the mercy of the programmers on Earth and hoped that all the money spent on covering up the secret mission had been matched by the engineering budget to make it work successfully.
No human likes to have their entire life in the hands of a computer. That choice had already been made. The countdown timer lit up 300 seconds. Five minutes to Lunar descent.
It wouldn’t do any good to have a top secret mission happen where any amateur astronomer can see it with a back yard telescope. All the good stuff was to happen on the far side. It all went off without a flaw. They landed with hardly a bump. The supply capsule touched down near enough to the target they could see it.
Inside was all they needed for a rough shelter dug into the lunar crust “regolith.” The stuff isn’t classy enough to be called dirt. They had a tight ration of air and supplies but it was calculated to be enough. More would come to resupply them, they had been promised. Their torturous journey was over. By a miracle, they had survived and so had their supplies. There was only one problem and it was a big one.
The trio of humans were supposed to be the first to set up a permanent base on the moon. That was the primary reason everything was so totally secret from the start. The last thing they were expecting to see as they retrieved their supply capsule was a large and obviously unnatural dome formation not far from their landing site. It most certainly was not supposed to be there. Yet it was. The airless conditions on the moon and the sharp contrast between light and shadow made it hard to determine what sort of alien race might have carved such an impressive structure.
They didn’t have to ponder the mystery for long because there was a bipedal humanoid creature in a pressure suit hopping toward them like a rabbit, in 100 foot arcs. As it approached, the “bunny” hopped up to astronaut Tanya Lewis, who was closest, and bumped their face plates together (gently.) That way, they could talk without radio, since neither party knew the other’s frequency. “Hi! I’m Grimes! My boyfriend Elon and I got into a big fight and I told him I was going to start a lesbian space colony. So, he built me this one.” Before the stunned Lewis could reply, her welcoming committee added, “you’re cute. You guys are welcome over for a visit after you get settled in.” As the bunny hopped back to her dome, Emily declared, “wow. How secret can you get?“